With the holidays right around the corner, pet vaccination schedules are probably one of the last things on most people's minds! However, with the new year quickly approaching, and pet license renewals looming in the near future for many pet owners, it's important to make sure your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccines.
Although there is data to suggest that most vaccines protect our pets for many years, US state laws still require dogs and cats to be re-vaccinated against rabies often. Without proof of an up to date rabies vaccine, or (in some states) a waiver from your vet, pet owners will be unable to obtain yearly pet licenses, which are also required by law in most cities and towns.
How often your pet is vaccinated against rabies can depend on how diligent owners are about keeping their pet's vaccines up to date. That is because, if re-vaccinated before their current vaccine expires, most pets, after receiving an initial 1-year shot, will be able to receive a 3-year rabies booster rather than having to receive the shot annually. All US states now allow 3-year rabies vaccines, however some individual cities/towns may still require annual or 2 year rabies vaccines instead.
If you allow your pet's rabies vaccine to expire,however, your pet will not be able to receive the 3-year vaccine. In order to legally receive the 3 year booster, you must re-vaccinate your pet before his/her current vaccine expires.
For most owners, 3 year vaccines will not only save you money and extra trips to the vet, but it is also healthier for your pet. Reactions to rabies vaccines are relatively common and can include everything from lethargy to death. Although vaccines are designed to help our pets, over vaccinating our furry family members is thought to trigger health issues such as autoimmune disorders, allergies, and even cancer. There is a lot of evidence now that suggests a single vaccine sometime in a pet's lifetime may be enough to protect the pet for 7 years or more. However, laws still require that rabies boosters be given more often.
If you own a cat especially, make sure to talk to your vet about what rabies products are right for your pet. Cats seem to be much more prone to developing sarcoma, or cancer, at injection sites. Rabies vaccines containing an adjuvant (used to increase vaccine effectiveness, rabies vaccines for dogs contain adjuvants because dogs seem to be less likely to developing injection site cancers), such as the current 3 year rabies vaccine for cats, have been linked to higher instances of cancers in cats. There is now a rabies vaccine for cats that does not include an adjuvant, making is safer, but it is currently only approved for annual use.
Do your own research, and talk to your pet's vet, to decide what vaccine schedule is right for your pet. No matter what vaccine schedule you choose, follow local laws and keep your pet's rabies vaccine up to date to avoid possibly receiving fines from your city/town, and to make sure your pet is protected in case of a bite incident.